Review: Benjamin Shaw – I Got the Pox, The Pox is What I Got (2010)

“There’s a fine line between talented and me.”

In high school, everyone tends to stumble back a few decades in music to discover those classic artists that shaped a minor movement, or who’s genius only was accepted through post-humous means. Mine was Nick Drake with his subtle brooding elegance that captured the woods and small town feel I lived in in northern Illinois. The music spoke to the discouragement at living amidst farmlands and people who never seemed to crave more than convenience and comfort of that county. When Benjamin Shaw’s music came to my attention, “Thanks for All the Biscuits” immediately tugged my memories back with its airy flute and carefully, poignantly plucked acoustic guitar.

Who’s Benjamin Shaw? A similar man who left his humble Blackpool for Australia to chase, catch, and return to Northern London with his love. I Got the Pox, The Pox is What I Got is an EP of bedroom recordings; perfectly reflective of the tiny places in which he performs. With a voice that trembles with uncertain trepidation, “Thanks for All the Biscuits” fades into the simplicity of him and his guitar. No added instrument overwhelms the focus on him; just framing the story he recounts. “It won’t be long till everyone’s gone away…” may sound troubling, but as Nick Drake managed to elegantly swirl comfort into his lyrics Benjamin Shaw achieves as well.

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“12,000 Sentinels” draws from a frenetically calm piano over a seemingly anxiety riddled vocals, yet retains beauty over the tale told. Moving closer to the contemporary, it heavily conjures “A Spindle, A Darkness, A Fever, and a Necklace” from Bright Eyes’ early masterpiece in Fevers & Mirrors. Meanwhile the brighter, shoe-thumping “When I Feel Over in the City,” would draw forth the sunlight if it was not so perfect for a dimly lit fireplace session. The muffled, fuzzed horns are just barely noticeable as if to tentatively keep from bursting forth across the wooden floorboards-which it teasingly makes the listener want to do.

An album titled track closes Benjamin Shaw’s self-declared prideful piece. In spite of the dreary lyrics reminiscent of the connotations the word “Blackpool” has, this English songwriter retains a oddly comforting warmth till the final notes. I Got the Pox… is that moment when, after a drought of connection, you discover the person you like actually likes you…or you think…you’re not sure…but you’re quite positive. It is that nervous tension of anxiety and extroversion that beckons forth from Benjamin Shaw.

“As long as you’re near, well I’ll be all right…”

Benjamin Shaw
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Rating: 7.1/10
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